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DVD: 4 Elements / 4 Seasons

available at Amazon
Rebel, Les Élémens / Vivaldi, Le Stagioni, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, M. Seiler, J. Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola

(released on September 8, 2009)
Harmonia Mundi HMD 9909026
Performances by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, on disc and in concert, have consistently impressed my ears. Their new performing initiative, a series of choreographic concerts at Radialsystem V, the "new space for the arts in Berlin," attempts to impress the eyes as well. Whether it does, I suppose, will depend on your tolerance for modern dance. The concept began with ideas developed among the musicians, which were then adapted by Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola, a countertenor and early music specialist turned dancer, whose background in music helped to get the musicians, who are not only incorporated into the dance but also perform it at times, to trust him. That early music ensembles are not only reviving old, underperformed music but are creating new works of art is another sign that the HIP movement has, as I put it in a review yesterday, run its course.

Esnaola is the focus of the first half, set to Les Élémens, the suite of music by Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747). He lies on the floor, a fetal creature of the primordial ooze, as the work opens with a dissonant cluster (Le chaos) and then passes through the formation of the four elements and things associated with them. Esnaola shares the stage with the violin soloist, Midori Seiler, for the second half, a slightly odd but memorable staging of Vivaldi's Le Stagioni. The musical performances are splendid, as expected (with some odd sounds added in by decidedly non-period instruments), especially the Rebel half. Seiler seems to constrain the tempi of the outer movements of the Vivaldi concertos, likely at least in part because she has to play with all kinds of distractions from the choreography: she has a red ribbon pulled from her mouth, she is carried about on Esnaola's shoulders or back, rocked in a chair, covered with leaves and snow flakes, turned suddenly upside down, even "shot" with instrument bows as the quarry in the third movement of the fall concerto. Both works, brought together, give the impression of a life cycle, a human being born from the muck of prehistory who then falls in love with artistic beauty and mourns its loss. The ensemble has recorded neither work previously and, as stated was the goal in recording Vivaldi's most famous work, they have made something quite new with it.

1 comment:

MUSE said...

Thank God that Vivaldi's masterpiece can withstand gimmicks such as this.